- Associated Press - Monday, August 11, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The state education agency on Monday put one-quarter of Michigan’s charter school authorizers on notice of possible suspension, citing deficiencies in their transparency, academic performances and fiscal oversight.

The 11 chartering agents include five universities, a community college, the state’s turnaround entity in Detroit and four K-12 districts. They are the chartering bodies for 124 - or 43 percent - of 289 independent, public charter schools, according to the most recent figures.

Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s announcement was the first time the state had warned an authorizer since Michigan began allowing charter schools 20 years ago. The authorizers on the “at-risk” list have until Oct. 22 to fix their issues. Flanagan plans to decide in November whether to suspend their chartering ability.

“They wouldn’t be out of business,” he said in a statement. “They just won’t be able to open any new charters until their deficiencies are fixed and the academic outcomes of their schools are improved.”

Ultimately, the power to close a charter school rests with the authorizer.



Flanagan announced last month that he would review Michigan’s 40 chartering agents after a Detroit Free Press investigation questioned charter school oversight. Some schools are operated by nonprofits, while profit-making businesses manage more than half. The newspaper concluded much of the spending takes place with little public transparency or accountability.

Flanagan had previously said lawmakers needed to first offer specific guidelines for shutting down authorizers before he could act, but he decided not to wait. Factors he used to create the list include accountability, transparency, contracts and financial governance - which he said exist either in state law or the academic ranking system.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies, which called the newspaper series “one-sided,” said Monday that Flanagan’s findings are “not based in state law” and are a “finger in the eye” of the Republican-led Legislature and GOP Gov. Rick Snyder.

“It is a random, ‘back of the napkin’ measurement concept introduced today for the very first time that confuses the issue, misleads the media, ignores the law and aims to appease partisan motivations,” the organization’s president, Dan Quisenberry, said in a statement.

Flanagan said he has directed the Michigan Education Department to meet with authorizers about the state also taking into account the overall academic improvement in their portfolio of schools before a final decision on suspensions is made.

Authorizers at risk are Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan, Kellogg Community College and school districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. The state-run Education Achievement Authority and Macomb Intermediate School District also are in jeopardy.

Grand Valley is the chartering authority for 47 schools, Lake Superior for 21 and Ferris State for 20.

The Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers accused Flanagan of “conducting public policy by press release” and said it had not seen specific criteria used to rate the authorizers.

Tim Wood, special assistant to the president for charter schools at Grand Valley, said the school in 2013 was rated Michigan’s top authorizer in a report commissioned by the state Board of Education, which looked at student achievement, graduation rates and other academic metrics.

“The metrics have changed. We’re interested in finding out what those new metrics are and how they’re measuring us as an authorizer,” he said.

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Online:

List of charter schools by authorizer: https://1.usa.gov/1riUEvF

Why each authorizer is at risk: https://1.usa.gov/Vd3FvX

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

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